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Aug
23

More about Beloved Karma of Blessed Memory (and Empress of Everything)

This card, which I illustrated from a photo of Karma at Christmas time and embellished with cartoons of what cats might wish for, was our 2004 holiday card. In 2006, after she died, I reissued the card with a little story of her life inside. I got more responses to that card than almost any other holiday card I’ve ever done.

Even though Karma has been gone a while, she is remembered – and vividly so – by those of us who had the “honor” to know her. I put the word honor in quotes because truthfully, Karma turned out to be only a one-and-a-half person cat. How so? She loved me and tolerated Michael. Everyone else was pretty much loathed on sight. (I read years later that Russian Blues, of which we believe she was at least half, have a tendency to be one-person cats. I guess the other part of her was the part that tolerated Michael.)

Anyway, you don’t get to be as old as Karma without exerting considerable influence over your world. Karma certainly did that. The minute someone came in the door they were warned not to try to pet her. Some folks listened, some did not– and gave blood. She would bite, and bite hard. We could not board her while we were away; she freaked out so badly in the car and at the vet that it was way too stressful (for her and for us). So we got pet-sitters. Preferably people who could actually LIVE in our house while we were gone. Karma might be hateful toward each person the whole time, but at least there would be a human there. Since I have worked from home for many years, she was used to having someone around.

The thing was, she was gorgeous, especially when she was younger. So of course everyone wanted to pick her up, stroke her long, soft, fluffy fur, and so on. They’d be attempting to do this while one of us would be lunging toward them going “Nooooooooo!!!!! Don’t do that!” Snarl. Hissss. Chomp! Too late.

Some “friends” even voiced their opinions that we should get rid of her. Sorry, we took her on for life. It was never easy, but it was never boring, that’s for sure. Because as much of a bee-yotch as Karma could be, she was wildly entertaining. She would fetch toys for hours and push them up against our feet to make us throw them again. She could leap 4 feet in the air and catch them in her mouth, while doing a pirouette and half-gainer. And she did have her moments of affection, especially once she got older.

When she hit about age 18, she began slowing down and we noticed the early signs of kidney disease. A visit from our mobile vet confirmed this. Hydrate Karma with a needle? Not on your effin’ life. Not even once. We put her on a special diet, gave her as much love as she would allow (more as she got older), and just tried to give her the best quality of life we could. And by god she chugged along for two more years. The last month of her life, though, she went blind. It happened one weekend while we were gone. When we came back, I noticed she wasn’t getting up on the bed (she slept with me every night). Michael had made her a little inclined carpet-covered step, and she used that to get up on the bed since she had gotten much weaker. I put her on the bed with me, and she took two steps and fell off. I was horrified. That’s when I realized she was blind.

I called our vet and they assured me that when Karma was ready to go, I would know. She would stop eating and drinking and so on. But for another several weeks, she ate, drank, purred and used the litter box. Between one day and the next that all changed. She could barely walk, she had no desire to eat or drink, and she kept falling over. We had a very compassionate mobile vet on standby who would come to the house. I called her up and the next day we said good bye to Karma, as I held her on my lap and cried, even though I had told her good bye the night before.

Twenty-one and a half years is a long time to live with an animal. We had her cremated and her ashes are in a small wooden box with a picture of her on the front. The caption says, “Beloved Karma, Empress of Everything” – and that pretty much sums it up.

I still miss her.